Reporter 431, 15 February 1999

News in brief

Growing Getech gobbles global gravity gurus

A US subsidiary of a University company has completed its first acquisition - of its own landlord. ULIS division Getech Inc acquired the ongoing business of Precision Mapping Inc in January, having been tenants of PMI since 1996.

The two companies have grown closer over recent months, bidding and winning contracts as a team. The deal involves continued collaboration over the next five years between Getech and the founder of PMI.

Getech specialises in geophysical data processing services for oil and mineral companies. The acquisition brings together the company's library of global gravity and magnetic data (the most extensive in the world) and PMI's own gravity modelling holdings.

Telescopic vision

Star-gazers with disabilities are now able to study the heavens through a telescope donated to a local observatory by the physics department.

The main telescope at the West Yorkshire Astronomical Society's Pontefract observatory is only accessible via a steep staircase - which presents problems for partially sighted visitors with guide dogs, and for those in wheelchairs.

Physics professor John Dyson is president of the society and offered it the use of an old 10-inch reflector teaching telescope that the department no longer needed.

The telescope was bought by the department in 1977 when it began teaching astrophysics to undergraduates and was replaced two years ago. "We were very happy to pension it off rather than just leave it sitting around gathering dust," said Robin Jakeways of the physics department. "In fact we have another available and we're looking for a good home for that one too."

Chinese chequers

Professor Peter Buckley of the Business School visited China recently to receive his honorary professorship from Beijing's University of International Business and Economics. During his visit Professor Buckley also gave a keynote lecture at a conference in Zhuhai and was interviewed on Chinese television and radio about inward investment in the country.

Help for the poor

Universities will receive about an extra £150 annually towards the education of each student they take from poorer backgrounds, as part of the Government's drive to open higher education. HEFCE research indicates students from poorer backgrounds are less prepared for the demands of degree courses - and universities incur greater costs teaching them.

The £20m fund - part of a £150m overall package - will be allocated to institutions on the strength of their uptake of poorer students.

21 - key to the score

The eleven University departments assessed during the Quality Assurance Agency subject reviews (formerly known as Teaching Quality Assessment) in 1997-1999 received a mean score of 21. Three departments scored 23 out of a possible 24; East Asian Studies, Electronic and Electrical Engineering and Pharmacology.

Vocational varieties

The next round of NVQs offered to support staff through the School of Healthcare Studies will begin next month.

There is a meeting on March 1 for staff interested in registering for the customer service scheme. For more information contact Debbie Greenwood on ext 4148 or email NVQs are also available through security (contact Peter Vincent, ext 5661) and catering (Kim Adams, ext 6081).

Draw the old iron curtains will you

Russian students struggling to understand how a mere box of books can weigh a ton or why toning their muscles has nothing to do with music have been given a helping hand by University librarian Richard Davies.

Mr Davies acted as a consultant editor on a Russian-English dictionary of common words and phrases, produced by the universities of Leeds and Moscow.

The dictionary's Russian authors sifted through English dictionaries and texts to identify the words and phrases used most often. Mr Davies then checked that their literal translation had grasped the right end of the commonly-quoted stick.

Most other Russian-produced dictionaries are based on updates of the previous issue so the language included can often be decades out of date.

The dictionary project began in 1990 and was published last year, meaning thousands of Russian students can now find out the exact meaning of the words and sayings previously just on the tip of their tongue.

The extra 10 per cent

The Association of University Teachers has submitted a claim for a ten per cent pay rise to the employers. It is threatening a 'sustained campaign of industrial action' if the claim is rejected or delayed.

The settlement date for academic and academic-related staff is April 1.

Unison is also demanding a rise of ten per cent or £33 a week, whichever is greater, for its higher education members involved in manual, clerical, technical, professional and administrative work.

The claim will have to be agreed with other unions in its bargaining group before being submitted to the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association.

AUT president Chris Banister will discuss the future of pay determination in higher education at a lecture at Leeds Metropolitan University on February 24, at 12.30pm.

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